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SAT Prep Writing
Essay Rubric Score of 6 An essay in this category demonstrates clear and consistent mastery, although it may have a few minor errors. A typical essay: Effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates outstanding critical thinking, using clearly appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position Is well organized and clearly focused, demonstrating clear coherence and smooth progression of ideas Exhibits skillful use of language, using a varied, accurate and apt vocabulary Demonstrates meaningful variety in sentence structure Is free of most errors in grammar, usage and mechanics
Score of 5 An essay in this category demonstrates reasonably consistent mastery, although it has occasional errors or lapses in quality. A typical essay: Effectively develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates strong critical thinking, generally using appropriate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position Is well organized and focused, demonstrating coherence and progression of ideas Exhibits facility in the use of language, using appropriate vocabulary Demonstrates variety in sentence structure Is generally free of most errors in grammar, usage and mechanics
Score of 4 An essay in this category demonstrates adequate mastery, although it has lapses in quality. A typical essay: Develops a point of view on the issue and demonstrates competent critical thinking, using adequate examples, reasons and other evidence to support its position Is generally organized and focused, demonstrating some coherence and progression of ideas Exhibits adequate but inconsistent facility in the use of language, using generally appropriate vocabulary Demonstrates some variety in sentence structure Has some errors in grammar, usage and mechanics
Score of 3 An essay in this category demonstrates developing mastery, and is marked by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses: Develops a point of view on the issue, demonstrating some critical thinking, but may do so inconsistently or use inadequate examples, reasons or other evidence to support its position Is limited in its organization or focus, or may demonstrate some lapses in coherence or progression of ideas Displays developing facility in the use of language, but sometimes uses weak vocabulary or inappropriate word choice Lacks variety or demonstrates problems in sentence structure Contains an accumulation of errors in grammar, usage and mechanics
Score of 2 An essay in this category demonstrates little mastery, and is flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses: Develops a point of view on the issue that is vague or seriously limited, and demonstrates weak critical thinking, providing inappropriate or insufficient examples, reasons or other evidence to support its position Is poorly organized and/or focused, or demonstrates serious problems with coherence or progression of ideas Displays very little facility in the use of language, using very limited vocabulary or incorrect word choice Demonstrates frequent problems in sentence structure Contains errors in grammar, usage and mechanics so serious that meaning is somewhat obscured
Score of 1 An essay in this category demonstrates very little or no mastery, and is severely flawed by ONE OR MORE of the following weaknesses: Develops no viable point of view on the issue, or provides little or no evidence to support its position Is disorganized or unfocused, resulting in a disjointed or incoherent essay Displays fundamental errors in vocabulary Demonstrates severe flaws in sentence structure Contains pervasive errors in grammar, usage or mechanics that persistently interfere with meaning
SAT Essay Rule 1: Open-Ended Prompts
Because the prompts are vague, there is a lot of flexibility in what you write about.
SAT Essay Rule 2: Talk About Whatever You Want
Don’t feel like you have to choose the popular side of the argument or agree with any quote that’s in the prompt. The only position I wouldn’t take is one that puts down teachers or schooling (your graders are high school and college teachers).
SAT Essay Rule 3: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect
You don’t get extra consideration for using academic examples over pop culture or personal examples Points are not deducted for mistakes when it comes to historical facts or literary details; what’s most important is that whatever you’re discussing supports your thesis
SAT Essay Rule 4: Some Imperfect Grammar is Okay
Grammar mistakes shouldn’t be pervasive, but some grammatical errors won’t take you down any more than one point on the rubric. Your introduction, especially your thesis, should be the one section where your grammar is as perfect as possible.
SAT Essay Rule 5: The Longer, The Better
Most sample essays that have scored a five or six are five-paragraph essays (Intro, Three Main Points, Conclusion). Of course, quality is more important that quantity; aim for both. p. 210 of Blue Book: in terms of grammar, diction, and style, it does a better job of following the scoring guide than essays that received a higher score. Why is it a three? Too short.
SAT Essay Rule 6: Vocabulary Isn’t That Important
It’s in the scoring guide, but sophisticated vocabulary isn’t found in many of the sample high-scoring essays. p. 120: biggest word in the sample essay is “dumbfounded” and the essay uses the non-word “alright” Using “big words” incorrectly will bring down your score; trying to use words you don’t typically use will only eat up precious essay-writing time
SAT Essay Rule 7: There’s No Set Format (But Use the 5-Paragraph One)
All of the high-scoring sample essays have an opening paragraph, supporting paragraphs, and a closing paragraph; most have three supporting/example paragraphs
SAT Essay Rule 8: Clearly State Your Thesis, Preferably in the First Sentence
The most important part of the essay, score wise, is your ability to support your thesis. Therefore, you need a strong, clear thesis. Sample essay on p.197 of Blue Book Follow the three Ts: tell them what you’re going to tell them (thesis), tell them (support that proves thesis), tell them what you told them (conclusion paragraph)
Step-By-Step Approach to the Essay
Watch the clock. Don’t let yourself spend more than 5 minutes (20% of essay time) prepping. Develop a one-word response to the question (decide if your answer is yes, no, or maybe) Pick three facts/examples that illustrate your position. Use personal examples if you want or pick from PERMS (Political, Economic, Religious, Media, Social). Begin your essay with a one-sentence statement of your answer to the prompt (thesis).
5. Add one to two sentences that expand on your thesis. 6
5. Add one to two sentences that expand on your thesis. 6. Finish the first paragraph with a sentence that gives a strong introduction to your examples. “____, ____, and ____ serve as compelling examples of this fact.” 7. Begin the second paragraph with a general statement that introduces your first example. p.200 Blue Book—first sentence of second paragraph
8. In 3-5 sentences, tell the story that goes with your first example
8. In 3-5 sentences, tell the story that goes with your first example. Make sure whatever you discuss is clearly relevant to your thesis. 9. Use a sentence or two to relate the story of your first example to the thesis. This helps close the paragraph by re-connecting it to the first sentence of your essay. 10. Repeat these steps for the third paragraph with your second example. 11. Repeat these steps for the fourth paragraph with your third example.
12. Begin the final paragraph with a sentence that relates all of your examples back to the thesis. 13. Finish the essay with a sentence that rephrases the first sentence in the essay.
Let’s practice! Practice coming up with your answer to the prompt (yes, no, maybe) and your three examples for the following prompts…
Sample Prompt 1 Boxed Excerpt: Sometimes it is necessary to challenge what people in authority claim to be true. Although some respect for authority is, no doubt, necessary in order for any group or organization to function, questioning the people in charge—even if they are experts or leaders in their fields—makes us better thinkers. It forces all concerned to defend old ideas and decisions and to consider new ones. Sometimes it can even correct old errors in thought and put an end to wrong actions. Assignment: Is it important to question the ideas and decisions of people in authority?
Sample Prompt 2 Boxed Excerpt: Many people believe that our government should do more to solve our problems. After all, how can one individual create more jobs or make roads safer or improve the schools or help to provide any of the other benefits that we have come to enjoy? And yet expecting that the government—rather than individuals—should always come up with the solutions to society’s ills may have made us less self-reliant, undermining our independence and self-sufficiency. Assignment: Should people take more responsibility for solving problems that affect their communities or the nation in general?
Sample Prompt 3 Boxed Excerpt: Knowledge is power. In agriculture, medicine, and industry, for example, knowledge has liberated us from hunger, disease, and tedious labor. Today, however, our knowledge has become so powerful that it is beyond our control. We know how to do many things, but we do not know where, when, or even whether this know-how should be used. Assignment: Can knowledge be a burden rather than a benefit?
Sample Prompt 4 Boxed Excerpt: Technology promises to make our lives easier, freeing up time for leisure pursuits. But the rapid pace of technological innovation and the split second processing capabilities of computers that can work virtually nonstop have made all of us feel rushed. We have adopted the relentless pace of the very machines that were supposed to simplify our lives, with the result that, whether at work or play, people do not feel like their lives have changed for the better. Assignment: Do changes that make our lives easier not necessarily make them better?
Writing Multiple Choice
Improving Sentences Identifying Sentence Errors Improving Paragraphs
Approaches to Improving Sentences
Read the entire sentence before you look at the choices. Remember that the right answer will result in the most effective sentence. Read each choice along with the entire sentence. Look for common problem areas in sentences. Read all five versions of the sentence aloud, if possible, while you’re practicing. Read more slowly than you normally do. Use your test booklet to help you by marking each question that you don’t answer.
Unwritten Rules of Identifying Sentence Errors on the SAT
-Think only about grammar—don’t worry about style at all. Don’t mark something as correct because you think it might be a better way to say it. -Deletions are rare. Only delete an entire underlined phrase when the phrase is redundant (this happens rarely).
“He,” “She,” “It,” and “They” must always be replaceable within the sentence. If the college board uses one of those pronouns, then there must be a noun somewhere else in the sentence that indicates what the pronoun is referring to. If you see the word “they” or the word “it” underlined, you have to make sure there’s a phrase somewhere in the sentence that can be plugged in exactly for that word. If there’s not, then the College Board will say the usage is incorrect.
Verb tenses can only be wrong if they’re formed wrong, or if they’re impossible. The only time a verb will be grammatically incorrect on the writing section if it is conjugated incorrectly or if it creates an impossible situation when combined with other verbs in the sentence. The tree fell over. acceptable Lightning will strike the tree. acceptable The tree fell over when lightning will strike it. impossible situation
You can only compare similar things, and only in similar ways.
My house is bigger than John should be My house is bigger than John’s house. There are more people living in Germany than Hawaii should be There are more people living in Germany than in Hawaii. I am bigger than John should be I am as big as John is.
Common Ways the Writing Multiple Choice Will Trick You
parallel structure Singular vs. plural (My brother and my sister both want to be ____ [a dentist or dentists?].) Pay careful attention to word order subject-verb agreement; they’ll use a phrase between the subject and verb to try to confuse you Ex. The list of names takes a long time to read.
Step-by-Step Approach for Identifying Sentence Errors
Read the entire prompt sentence. Focus on the underlined portions of the prompt sentence. Think about how each underlined word relates to the other words in the sentence. Look for a word that doesn’t fit properly with the words it is supposed to be related to. Consider that there may be nothing wrong with the sentence.
Improving Sentences Questions
Grammar still matters in this section. Style also counts (see next slide for patterns). Don’t pick a choice that fixes one problem but creates another. Choice A is always the same as the sentence.
Grammar Patterns to Identify the Correct Answers for Improving Sentences
Shorter sentences are often the correct answer choices. Look for sentence options that have the least amount of words ending in –ed or –ing. You want sentences with few words that are under five letters long.
Approach for Improving Sentences Section
Read entire prompt sentence. Read the answer choices and eliminate any with obvious grammatical errors. If you’re not sure which choice has the best SAT style, determine which choice follows the three grammar patterns from the last slide. Read the entire sentence with your preferred answer choice in place of the underlined portion to make sure it’s good.
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